GAME REVIEW: Deadman Diaries

I’ve been a fan of the “Choose your own Adventure” style of storytelling for as long as I can remember being a fan of reading. Although I tended to have a preference for the more combat or rule based “solo RPG” games (such as Fighting Fantasy, Lone Wolf and the like) I also like to delve into the more narrative style of book (the recent Doctor Who: Choose the Future series is a good example). The style of these adventures, placing the reader as the protagonist, lend themselves well to the digital medium and have been seeing a resurgence. Cubus Games’ latest offering, Deadman Diaries, is a twist on the normal fare. Here’s the official lowdown.

Deadman Diaries is an introduction to gamebooks (popularly known as “Choose-your-own-adventure”), so the game has been designed to be quick and easy to read.

Using the form of a personal diary, readers are immersed in the life of John Riggs, a bank worker who has to pay off a gambling debt that will lead him to different illegal, and often lethal, situations.

Readers are given different options and can choose between trying to save the character or killing him off in as many ways as possible.

So, less of an adventure Gamebook and more of an adventure Gamediary. I’ll warn people up front that Deadman Diaries is quite dark in tone throughout. It’s clear that Cubus are acutely aware of this as each playthrough begins with a warning about scenes of suicide and death. In my first session, I followed John Riggs through three paths and by the end of it I did feel a little out of sorts and had to put my Sony Xperia Z2 on the side for a while.

That’s not really a criticism though, as I think that Deadman Diaries serves as a bit of a veiled look at the darker side of society as well as the general media. Our entertainment is filled with death and grim tones and the gamediary is merely an extension of this. In Deadman Diaries, the reader follows John Riggs to his death (I’ve yet to find the “save the character” route) through his own eyes – and then through police reports. This approach makes the experience much more personal than many other gamebooks.

This is helped by the simple presentation offered by Deadman Diaries. The app is designed to mimic the diary concept – a diary that is a little aged as evidenced by the slightly yellowing pages. On top of this, the reader is given the sense of a grim and gritty environment through the artwork that is used – primarily at least – at the end of each of the paths. Stark contrasting silhouettes of death are the order of the day. The final touch which indicates the tone of the piece is the “Death List” accessible from the home screen / cover of the book. This presents a list of the potential endings available. There are ten methods of death, though I think there are multiple ways of getting to each.

Deadman Diaries

It’s a testament to the writing of the adventure that I felt that personal connection as well. There were moments where I felt something of a voyeur into an appalling series of events. Riggs is really taken to the ringers during the course of Deadman Diaries. I won’t go into any details here but I certainly found the text to have an effect on my mood and state of mind.

Would I recommend Deadman Diaries? I would – but with a number of content warnings. It’s not that the adventure is overly graphic, it’s the psychological effect it had on me. For those with steel constitutions or a morbid sense of fun, this is definitely an app to get hold of. As an introduction to gamebooks … for those types I’ve mentioned, sure. If this was my introduction to the story-telling method, I think I would have turned away though.

Deadman Diaries is an intriguing adventure gamediary that certainly meets most of its objectives. The presentation is excellent and the tone is consistent throughout. There’s very much a noir feel, even if it is noir that is perhaps a bit too ground-level for my tastes. If you’re not put off by multiple grim endings, then I’d definitely spend the £0.99 that this is priced at.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

GS Blogger: WedgeDoc

  • Platforms: iOS, Android
  • Developer: Cubus Games
  • Publisher: Cubus Games
  • Platform Reviewed: Android

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